The institute produces a range of publications throughout the year dealing with the spectrum of strategic and defence policy challenges and wider national security issues. In 2019–20, we produced a total of 57 publications. Detailed information about the full range of ASPI publications, including examples of media coverage, is in Chapter 3 and Annex A.
All ASPI publications are available for free download from our website. We have expanded our readership base worldwide, and there have been more than half a million downloads of our publications around the world since the introduction of free PDF downloads in 2007.
Readership of ASPI reports continues to grow year on year. In addition to the more traditional downloadable PDF reports and the newer ‘feature’ reports formatted to be read online, we have now produced several targeted websites that provide tools to support research efforts. Examples of our supporting sites include the China Technology Map and the Chinese Defence University Tracker.
The Chinese Defence University Tracker site is worth singling out this year, as it received a massive number of views following a New York Times story on a new US Government policy placing restrictions on scientists with defence interests from the People's Republic of China (PRC). The New York Times story referenced the ASPI site, and overnight a massive number of readers visited the site to check whether specific universities were referenced.
The readership of PDF and feature reports added an additional 36,000 and 328,000 views, respectively, to the cumulative total. When we add the views that the supporting sites received for the year (an additional 400,000), the new cumulative total is 1.3 million (see Figure 1).
ASPI continues to enjoy a substantial presence in the media landscape through our daily online publication, The Strategist, which allows us to examine contemporary security issues in a way that is consistent with our reputation for considered analysis. A major benefit is the ability to publish the views of analysts and commentators on current ‘hot topics’ quickly and in their own words, rather than through a media filter.
At 30 June 2020, The Strategist had more than 4,300 daily subscribers and 5,550 weekly subscribers. It recorded a total of 2,699,662 unique page views during the year, compared with¸2,118,312 in 2018–19, an increase of 27.4%.
Strategist pieces have been quoted in other media reporting on numerous occasions. The Strategist is a useful vehicle for the media to easily identify ASPI analysts with particular subject-matter expertise, so pieces often lead to interviews. During 2019–20, we¸published 1,070 posts from 357 individual authors, covering all of the major areas of ASPI’s research interests.
ASPI staff are also frequent contributors to academic journals and other external publications. A list of selected external publications is in Annex B.
Contributing to government policy
ASPI’s contribution to government policy thinking occurs at many different levels. More˛formally, the following submissions were provided during the year: submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security in respect of a review of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2019 (submission by Dr John Coyne) submission and evidence to the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor inquiry into temporary exclusion orders (submission by Dr John Coyne) submission to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry into citizenship loss (submission by Dr John Coyne) submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (full committee) as part of its inquiry into strengthening Australia’s relationships with countries in the Pacific region (submission by Dr Paul Barnes) submission (no. 17) to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Defence Subcommittee inquiry into Australia’s defence engagement with Pacific island nations (submission by Lisa Sharland and Genevieve Feely). More informally, ASPI senior staff engage frequently in meetings with parliamentarians and senior bureaucrats to discuss a range of policy options.
Defence research projects
A portion of the funds that ASPI receives from the Department of Defence is directed to mutually agreed Defence-specific projects. During the year, those projects focused on: change in Australia’s strategic environment and the implications for defence strategy and policy cyber policy, security and technologies and their application to Australian national decision-making and security capability assessment and change, including the implications of disruptive and emerging technologies for militaries and national security agencies defence budget analysis, including analysis of cost drivers, the implementation of the Integrated Investment Program and industry policy aspects.
Participation in government advisory committees and expert panels
Recognised for their expertise, ASPI staff have been invited to participate in a number of Australian Government advisory committees and expert panels, which include: member, consultative group: 2020 Asia–Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DFAT) member of the Standards Australia committee MB-025: Security and resilience member of DFAT’s Advisory Group on Australia–Africa Relations ASEAN for the young cohort at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Quadrilateral Security Dialogue Australia – Southeast Asia Engagement Roundtable DFAT Diplomatic Academy Defence Department pre-Shangri-La Dialogue briefings.
Level of involvement by other Australian Government entities in ASPI research programs
While ASPI’s core funding for defence work comes from the Department of Defence, funding from other government entities has grown significantly. This has allowed us to expand the Defence, Strategy and National Security Program’s areas of research, to undertake specific training programs and to deliver contracted research and analysis. The commitment of other government agencies to funding ASPI for those programs demonstrates their confidence in our ability to provide high-quality, independent analysis and advice.
During 2019–20, ASPI received additional funds from: .au Domain Administration Ltd Attorney-General’s Department Australian Civil–Military Centre Australian Mission to the UN Australian Office Taipei Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre Limited Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Department of Defence Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Department of Home Affairs Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet National Archives of Australia Services Australia.
Those funds contributed to the following research programs: International Cyber Policy Centre Defence, Strategy and National Security Program The North and Australia’s Security Program and Strategic Policing and Law Enforcement Program International Program Risk and Resilience Program Counter-Terrorism Policy Centre Professional Development and Defence graduate programs.
Increasing understanding of and developing expertise in strategic and defence policy
ASPI reaches a range of different audiences through a program of public and invitation-only events. During 2019–20, we conducted a total of 103 events, which included roundtable discussions, masterclasses and seminars attended by Australian and international participants. ASPI events made a valuable contribution to discussions about defence and national security issues in Australia.
The impact of Covid-19 on the events program has been significant. Most notably, the in-person annual conference was postponed from the originally planned date in June 2020 to 2020–21. Many planned public events, evening presentations and strategic international dialogues that were to be held from March 2020 through until the end of 2019–20 have been postponed or cancelled for that reason. It is anticipated the impact on Covid-19 will continue in the 2020-21 financial year.
Details about the full range of events that ASPI organises are in Chapter 4 and Annex D.
ASPI continues to play an important role in the media as part of our strategy for encouraging and informing public debate.
Every week, ASPI staff are contacted to provide comments or be interviewed for radio or television on the full range of research program areas. This amounts to hundreds of interviews throughout the year and reflects the standing that ASPI has established with the media as a credible and reliable source of information on what are often very complex issues.
As well as comments and interviews, 87 opinion pieces by ASPI staff were published during 2019–20. A list of the opinion pieces is in Annex C. Examples of media coverage and contributions to the national debate through our publications are in Chapter 3.
ASPI communication channels
ASPI uses a number of different tools to communicate research and analysis to a broad audience. In addition to the website and The Strategist, each element of our social media presence is designed to provide a unique user experience, and each channel complements the others.
Website and The Strategist
Visits to the ASPI website increased in 2019–20 year to a high of 1.1 million unique views, up from 598,000 the previous year (an 87% increase in views). While this increase is very encouraging, most of it related to a few specific reports that garnered wide attention; for example, the Uyghurs for sale report received 163,000 views on its own.
Last year, we reported a steady increase in attention to our work from international audiences. That trend appears to be continuing, as Australia was home to 32.9% of our readership in 2019–20, very closely followed by the US with 29.5%. Again, we expect that this surge in interest from the US may be because of a few specific reports; however, it is encouraging to see growth in ASPI’s international profile. Table 1 shows the breakdown of website visitors from the top 10 countries of origin.
Table 1: Visitors to the ASPI website, by country of origin, 2019–20
Percentage of total visitors
2: United States
3: United Kingdom
8: Hong Kong
Figure 2 shows the number of unique page views on the ASPI website from 2015–16 to 2019–20.
Around half of the readers of The Strategist in 2019–20 were in Australia. The top 10 countries of origin of Strategist readers (Table 2) differed slightly from those visiting the ASPI website. Visits to The Strategist grew by 27.4%, from 2,118,312 in 2018–19 to 2,699,662 in 2019–20. Total page views exceeded 3 million for the first time, growing by 29.1% from 2,348,898 in 2018–19 to 3,030,395 in 2019–20.
Table 2: Visitors to The Strategist, by country of origin, 2019–20
Top 10 countries of origin
Percentage of total visitors
2. United States
4. United Kingdom
8. New Zealand
10. Hong Kong
Figure 3 shows the number of unique page views on The Strategist from 2014–15 to 2018–19.
We use Twitter to inform followers of newly released reports, articles and Strategist pieces, as well as to alert audiences to ASPI events and other developments. We ‘live tweet’ updates, images and quotes to Australian and international followers in near real time during ASPI public events. Our Twitter followers increased by 39% to 31,800 in 2019–20 from 22,888 in 2018–19.
On Facebook, we post information about ASPI, internship opportunities, images, videos, event updates, news, newly released publications and The Strategist posts. Our Facebook followers increased to 24,068 in 2019–20, which was an increase of 13% from 21,340 in 2018–19.
ASPI uses LinkedIn to promote information about our reports, events, job and internship opportunities and other notable developments. While data from 2018–19 is unavailable, LinkedIn has been included in this report because growth on the platform in the last quarter was significant, and interactions continue to grow. In June 2020, the page increased its followers by 24%. This will be a useful figure to measure at the close of the next financial year. In 2019–20, our page’s LinkedIn followers increased to 17,016.
Figure 4 shows the significant growth in the numbers of ASPI’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn followers over the past five years.
YouTube remains a strong channel for ASPI, recording over 100,000 views during 2019–20. Some of the videos that resonated the most during this period were ‘To remake Australia’s Defence force’ by Hugh White and General Angus Campbell’s address at the War in 2025 Conference.
Our videos attract a strong international audience: 13% of our viewers were based in the US, and 8% were from Indonesia.
Policy, Guns and Money: The ASPI Podcast
Policy, Guns and Money: The ASPI Podcast continues to show strong growth, proving that podcasts are an appealing channel for extending our discussions. We are attracting good speakers and commentators from among ASPI staff and an increasing number of high-quality external guests. This increase in effort and quality is being reflected in the statistics for the product (see Figure 5). In 2018–19, we logged 35,000 plays of the podcast. This doubled to 77,000 plays 2019–20. ASPI – Professional Development
ASPI-Professional Development (ASPI-PD) plays an important role in strengthening understanding of strategic and defence policy issues, as well as developing the expertise of Australian Government departments and agencies to deliver strategic policy excellence, particularly the Australian Defence organisation.
In 2019–20, ASPI-PD delivered a total of 13 activities to 242 personnel (Table 3). Due to the risks posed by Covid-19, several planned activities were pushed into the 2020–21 financial year. Details of the full range of programs delivered by ASPI-PD are in Chapter 2.
Table 3: Breakdown of ASPI-PD activities, 2019–20
Total number of participants
Crafting better policy for improved decision-making workshops
Focused policy development workshops
Advanced better policy workshops
Red teaming activities
Royal Australian Air Force professional development programs
Royal Australian Corps of Signals Army modernisation workshop
The ASPI paid internship program gives recent graduates an opportunity to contribute to our research projects and also to conduct their own research projects for future publication, either by ASPI or independently. By attending many of ASPI’s events, they make contact with senior officials, researchers and diplomats from Canberra and elsewhere as they begin to form professional networks for their careers in strategic policy.
A strong field of capable applicants applies twice a year for internships. During 2019–20, ASPI employed nine interns in two intakes for six-month placements.
Interns make important contributions to research projects, publications and The Strategist and gain hands-on experience in strategic policy development. Examples of reports, publications and The Strategist articles authored by or contributed to by interns in 2019–20 included: publication—Retweeting though the Great Firewall publication—National security agencies and the cloud: an urgent capability issue for Australia publication—Covid-19 disinformation and social media manipulation trends publication—Covid-19 attracts patriotic troll campaigns in support of China’s geopolitical interests publication—ID2020, Bill Gates and the Mark of the Beast: how Covid-19 catalyses existing online conspiracy movements publication—Running on empty? A case study of fuel security for civil and military air operations at Darwin Airport publication—After Covid-19: Australia and the world rebuild (volume 1) publication—Hacking democracies The Strategist—‘New crisis, same old problems for the EU’ The Strategist—‘Women’s rights in China and the legacy of the Feminist Five’ The Strategist—‘India–China tensions flare up on new front: TikTok’ The Strategist—‘Northern Australia needs to be ready to meet climate-change-driven security challenges’ The Strategist—‘Australia must fast-track new domestic storage to ensure fuel security’ The Strategist—‘In a crisis, Australians might soon be running on empty’ The Strategist—‘Renewable energy exports could be vital for Australia’s post-fossil-fuel future’ The Strategist—‘Thailand’s hashtag activism targets political change’ The Strategist—‘Is Thailand heading for another political crisis?’ The Strategist—‘Russia’s growing interests in the South China Sea’ Weekly wraps—Five domains wrap and national security wrap Monthly wraps—Women, peace and security.
Promoting international understanding of Australia’s strategic and defence policy perspectives
ASPI’s standing as a respected source of analysis is recognised both internationally and domestically. It can be measured by our international ranking in a global index of think tanks, being selected to co-host Track 1.5 dialogues with international institutions and government partners on a regular basis, strengthening links with overseas think tanks through exchanges and fellowships, and being invited to speak at international conferences. Readers from around the world are increasingly accessing our website and The Strategist, and our counterparts in other countries help us to foster the next generation of strategic policy thinkers by inviting our staff to attend their meetings and conferences. In 2019–20, we received invitations from: International Military Council on Climate and Security, Washington DC Geneva Centre for Security Policy World Economic Forum Expert Network (Risk and Resilience) International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres via video conference in Lima, Peru (on ASPI’s Evolution of the protection of civilians in UN peacekeeping report) ‘Protection of civilians in UN peacekeeping’ at the UN’s Senior Mission Leaders’ Course in Seoul, Republic of Korea Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) think tank on the Xi Jinping ideologies, Berlin, Germany University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland Indo-Pacific Strategies Conference hosted by the Japanese Embassy and the National Security College Observer Research Foundation Raisina Dialogue International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue and Fullerton Forum Stimson Center’s workshop (video conference) on Mekong Hydro-politics US State Department funded US–ASEAN Partnership Forum Australia – New Zealand ASPI-CSS Track 1.5 strategic dialogue ASPI – S Rajaratnam School of International Studies Track 1.5 strategic dialogue in Singapore ASPI – National Institute for Defense Studies (Japan) senior exchange National Institute for Defense Studies, Tokyo, Japan, 19–20 November Australia–Japan–India Track 1.5 dialogue, hosted by the Griffith Asia Institute Indo-Pacific Strategic Futures: dialogue and simulation co-hosted by the US State Department, the Australian Department of Defence and the US Studies Centre
Asian–Australian Leadership Summit ‘Development of the South China Sea’ at the DFAT-initiated Lawfare and South China Sea Strategy workshop, University of New South Wales US State Department Intelligence Research Unit Southeast Asia and Regional Security desks at the Pentagon Australia–US–ASEAN Trilateral Dialogue DFAT–UNSW closed-door workshop on infrastructure competition in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Track 1.5 dialogue with the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences, ANU National Security College Closed-door workshop on the Indo-Pacific, Embassy of the Republic of Korea Harvard–Columbia China and the World annual conference Raisina Dialogue in India National Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University (ANU) Crawford Leadership Forum, ANU Center for Strategic and International Studies conference, Washington DC Center for a New American Security Stimson Center, Washington DC Thammasat University, Thailand UKM, Malaysia Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University US State Department in combination with the United States Studies Centre Western Australian Indo-Pacific Defence Conference S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore National Chengchi University, Taipei.
In the University of Pennsylvania’s 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index, ASPI was the highest ranked defence and national security think tank in Australia, ranking 13th out of 110 think tanks.
Links with overseas think tanks
Our links with overseas think tanks take a number of forms. We engage formally through hosting or co-hosting a range of Track 1.5 dialogues, exchanges or visiting fellowships, co-writing publications, and visits to the institutes. The think tanks we engage with include: International Peace Institute (US) Hedayah (United Arab Emirates) Center for Strategic and International Studies (US) Council on Foreign Relations (US) New America (US) Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto (Canada) Center for a New American Security (US) Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (Germany) Mercator Institute for China Studies (Germany) Centre of Excellence for National Security, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (Singapore) Institute for Strategic and International Studies (Malaysia) Centre for Strategic and International Studies (Indonesia) Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (Brunei Darussalam) ICT Faculty, Mahidol University (Thailand) Cyber Security Lab, University of Computer Sciences (Myanmar) Institute for Cooperation and Peace (Cambodia) International Military Council on Climate and Security (US) Geneva Centre for Security Policy (Switzerland) World Economic Forum Expert Network (Switzerland) Diplomatic Academy (Vietnam) Stratbase ADR Institute for Strategic and International Studies (Philippines) Stimson Center (US).
Expert Visiting Fellows exchange information and engage with ASPI, deepening our understanding of a range of domestic and international defence and national security matters. In 2019–20, five Visiting Fellows were on secondment in the ASPI office: Dr Robert Glasser (July 2019 – July 2020) Dr Yoedhi Swastano, Indonesia Defense University (September 2019 – October 2019) Dr MHD Halkis, Indonesia Defense University (September 2019 – October 2019) Colonel Ned Holt, US Army War College (July 2019 – June 2020) Associate Professor James Leibold, La Trobe University (January 2020 – July 2020) In addition, ASPI appoints people with long and distinguished careers as ASPI Fellows. They produce a range of written analyses, contribute to ASPI program areas and provide mentoring for staff. The 18 ASPI Fellows are: Vice Admiral Timothy Barrett—Senior Fellow Dr Anthony Bergin—Senior Fellow Dr Andrew Davies—Senior Fellow Hon David Feeney—Senior Fellow Simeon Gilding—Senior Fellow Stan Grant—Senior Fellow Nick Kaldas—Senior Fellow Stephen Loosley AM—Senior Fellow Dr Rod Lyon—Senior Fellow Bill Paterson—Senior Fellow Campbell Darby—Fellow Anne Lyons—Fellow Stephen Merchant PSM—Fellow Dr Rajiv Shah—Fellow John Garnaut—Non-Resident Fellow Sophia Patel—Non-resident Fellow Senator (Canada) Vern White—Non-Resident Fellow Graeme Dobell—Journalist Fellow
ASPI supports Australian diplomacy by conducting regular Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues with international institutions and government partners; however, many dialogues planned for 2020 were postponed due to Covid-19.
During 2019–20, we were involved in organising six international dialogues (Table 4).
Table 4: International Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues, 2019–20
22–23 July 2019
Australia–Indonesia Track 1.5 dialogue co-hosted with foreign policy community of Indonesia
ASPI’s international standing is reflected in the number of invitations that staff receive to speak at international conferences. In 2019–20, they spoke at more than five conferences in the US, India, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Further details are in Annex E.